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Voicing unpopular views: Effects of majority similarity on public expressions of minority positions

Petra Stanat, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Research suggests that (a) people conform more with members of their own social groups than with members of different social groups and (b) people assume that it is easier to convince members of their own social groups than members of different social groups. Based on the assumption that the extent to which people will reveal their attitudes to others primarily depends on the pressure to conform when the issue is low in personal relevance and on the possibility of convincing when the issue is high in personal relevance, it was predicted that issue relevance and majority similarity interact in determining public expressions of minority views. Two experiments were performed to test this prediction. In Experiment 1, participants expected to discuss an issue with four other students who opposed their position. Moreover, participants believed that the other students belonged either to the same social group as they or to a different social group than they. Results revealed the predicted interaction between issue relevance and majority similarity. When the issue did not affect them, the attitudes participants reported deviated more from the position of the dissimilar majority than from the position of the similar majority. When the issue did affect them, reported attitudes deviated slightly more from the position of the similar majority than from the position of the dissimilar majority. Experiment 2 attempted to replicate this finding for expressions of newly adopted minority views. Moreover, because Experiment 1 failed to find a difference between privately and publicly reported attitudes, Experiment 2 tried to make the distinction between the private and public response conditions stronger. Yet, inasmuch as participants' attitudes remained very close to the majority position, Experiment 2 did not provide a good test of the study's hypotheses. To explore the processes underlying the effects predicted for public expressions of minority views, both experiments also assessed participants' expectations for the group discussion. Although results supported some predictions, the evidence was not completely conclusive. Recommendations for future research include more systematic and direct ways of addressing the issue of mediation.

Subject Area

Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Stanat, Petra, "Voicing unpopular views: Effects of majority similarity on public expressions of minority positions" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909224.